The summer of 2023 has brought air quality problems as well as record heat.
At noon on July 21, air quality in Okeechobee was rated 68 (moderate). The Florida Department of Environmental Protection considers levels below 50 to be good; levels of 51-100 to be moderate; 101 to 150 to be unhealthy for sensitive groups; 151 to 200 to be unhealthy; and levels above 200 to be very unhealthy.
Ground level dust haze in South Florida on Friday was due to Saharan dust in the air according to Randall Miller of Miller Environmental Solutions.
“During Saharan dust events, such as the one currently influencing PM2.5 air quality in south Florida, residents should avoid heat stress and remain hydrated with water,” he advised. This air pollution may irritate eyes and contribute to allergy-like symptoms in sensitive individuals.
According to the Indoor Air Hygiene Institute, “Particulate Matter (PM) is a mixture of solid and liquid particles that are suspended in the air. These are categorized into coarse, fine and ultrafine. PM2.5 are fine particles that have a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (more than 100 times thinner than a human hair) and remain suspended in the air for longer durations. The health risk with PM2.5 is that they can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the blood stream.”
On July 21, air quality in Belle Glade was rated 66. Air quality monitors are not available in Clewiston, Moore Haven or LaBelle.
The worst air quality in Florida on Friday was in Fort Lauderdale was 88.
According to the Lt. Col. Todd Polk of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Saharan dust is also contributing to the nutrient load feeding cyanobacterial blooms in Florida lakes, canals and rivers. The dust is often rich in phosphorus and acts as a fertilizer.